Monday, February 23, 2015

6. CABBAGE ROLLS

Around this time of year, when I was a teenager, we Mormons of the Pittsburgh 2nd Ward opened the doors to our church to massive boxes of inventory papers from the JC Penney Company.  I’m not sure how we got this gig, but it was one of the major ways we were able to build the addition to our chapel.  And it is how we sent missionaries out to the world, when their parents were too poor to pay for their service.  Classrooms were lined with tables, which were lined with papers and finely sharpened pencils. I remember finally being old enough to work, and feeling so accomplished. Those were the days when all inventory accounting was done by hand, before computers took over the world.  My sisters and I walked from TJ High school to the church through the crisp, damp Pennsylvania air each school day of the two week inventory.  If I close my eyes and breathe slowly, I can place myself there.  My cheeks are rosy, my long blonde hair curved around my shoulders under my scarf.  As soon as the large glass door to the church lobby was opened, a waft of warmth flowed out, and upon inhaling we knew Genevieve Deutch and Beno Mann must be there because there was that unmistakable aroma of cabbage rolls escaping into the leafless branches across the Pennsylvania hillsides.  It was not a familiar smell in our household, our mom being a transplanted Idaho girl.  But it is integral to my past and delightful to my senses at this very moment because there is a nice large batch steaming away in my oven.  Before we had a kitchen in the church, the counters in the small library were lined with large electric roasters.  I wonder, if I made a trip back to Pittsburgh now, if I could go into that library and pull some of the old matted pictures out of their cubbies, and in doing so I wonder if there might be some hint of my past infused into the papers and manuals and books.  That lovely, distinct aroma of devotion, created at the hands of faithfully converted Hungarian Saints, nourishing their fellow believers on chilly late winter evenings. 

A few years back Beno came out to Utah for a visit, and I asked her to teach me how to make Cabbage Rolls.  This is how it rolled out:

Cabbage Rolls
(Beno Mann.  aka Helen Katchmark)


Take a large head of green cabbage. Cut the hard middle part out in a sort of cone shape. Place in large pot of boiling water with 1 T vinegar. In a few minutes, as outer leaves soften, remove them one by one with rubber tongs.  Place in cold water.  Keep doing this until you have a pile of soft leaves.  Reserve the cabbage water.

In a large bowl mix together:

1 1/2 pound burger meat (hamburger or ground pork, I use both together)

1 ½ c. cooked rice

2T fresh chopped parsley or 1 T dried parsley

1 small finely chopped onion

3-5 minced garlic cloves (or garlic powder/salt)

½ c crushed tomatoes

2 eggs

salt, pepper 

Mash it all together with your hands.


Cut the heavy vein out of each leaf in a v shape so you have workable leaves. (update- I've been just trimming the thick part of the vein off, which makes a better leaf bed)
Put a couple Tablespoons of the meat mix in center and roll up with sides flapped in so it's sealed. 

Mix 2 c crushed tomatoes, 2 c tomato sauce, and 3 c. or so of reserved cabbage water together. Add salt to taste, maybe a teaspoon or so (these are approximations).  Put about 1 inch of this liquid in bottom of a casserole. 
Lay rolls down in sauce, nice and snug next to each other, then cover with more sauce.  Put bacon on top if you have some, just for the flavor.  Cover and bake at 325 for a few hours.  Keep rolls covered with sauce.  May add water to sauce to stretch it out. Discard bacon before eating. More often than not I make this without the bacon and its still yummy.


2 comments:

  1. Do you have any leftovers?

    Home sick...

    Just kidding. I'll heart up some leftover soup, but sounds comforting.

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  2. Oh my goodness...so took me back to Pleasant Hills. I LOVED inventory time...though when I was young I wasn't so sure about the "aroma"....just sayin. Let's do go back together someday. I think that needs to be on our bucket list. Love you sooo much!!

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